It was an homage to Rembrandt, one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art, and 22-year old Omani artist Khadija al Mamari toiled on it for weeks.
She made it not just for visual appreciation, but filled it with meaning hidden in plain sight — and onlookers have to pay special attention to details.
A quick glance will show but a man, hat ripped from his head by an unseen force, tie fluttering in the air, hand extended as if trying to reach or stop something and a surprised expression on his face. His mouth gaping and whether it is an expression of torture or surprise is left open to interpretation.
For the artist however who called her work ‘Leave,’ the painting signifies something deep.
“When one looks at the painting, they can interpret it in many different ways but ‘Leave’ was intended for death,” she said.
Khadija said she placed some of her own spirit into her painting. She explained that as one dies, the body, in its current state, is not immortal.
“The soul is immortal. When people die, the soul remains, alive and true to its form,” she said.
“There is no death except the body death. The soul is resurrected. Although an homage to Rembrandt, the painting also drew inspiration from the poet Salem al Hosani who once said in one of his poems that the soul is immortal,” she shared.
Using oil and painted on kanaf, the painting is Khadija’s way of attaining immortality in some way.
“Death is often a tragic experience. It is a sad, maddeningly upsetting event but on the positive, it helps us to be strong, it helps us appreciate happiness even more, it gives us an opportunity to appreciate life, love, and everything that makes life worth it,” she said.
“We want to cling to this life and it’s often hard to accept that our souls are immortal and that death is just a phase in an even bigger adventure. When I made this art piece, the choices I made — from the colours I used to how I composed it will in some way remind people of who I was and how my feelings mattered. Through this remembrance, only a few people will understand why in some form, this is immortality,” she explained.
The painting was exhibited at the Rembrandt Exhibition held in Sultan Qaboos University early part of this year. Participants of the exhibition were challenged to emulate Rembrandt’s style of shading and playing with light and colours. Khadija is one of the artists selected to showcase her work not only to students and faculty members but to guests and lovers of art who visited the campus.
RUQAYA AL KINDI & TITASH CHAKRABORTY